“The Enterprise War” – John Jackson Miller Interview

John Jackson Miller is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Dawn, Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith, and the Star Wars Legends: The Old Republic graphic novel collections from Marvel, among many other novels and comics. A comics industry analyst, he lives in Wisconsin with his wife, their two children, and far too many comic books.

His first Star Trek novel, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Takedown, was released in 2015 by Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books, along with “takedown” John has written several other Star Trek titles, the trilogy Star Trek: Prey, and most recently the Star Trek: Discovery novel “The Enterprise War”, we were lucky to catch up with John and interview him for Treksphere.com.

A shattered ship, a divided crew—trapped in the infernal nightmare of conflict!

Hearing of the outbreak of hostilities between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, Captain Christopher Pike attempts to bring the U.S.S. Enterprise home to join in the fight. But in the hellish nebula known as the Pergamum, the stalwart commander instead finds an epic battle of his own, pitting ancient enemies against one another—with not just the Enterprise, but her crew as the spoils of war.

Lost and out of contact with Earth for an entire year, Pike and his trusted first officer, Number One, struggle to find and reunite the ship’s crew, all while Science Officer Spock confronts a mystery that puts even his exceptional skills to the test—with more than their own survival possibly riding on the outcome!

Anson Mount plays Pike in the series, as seen at left, along with Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Spock.

Treksphere (TS): It’s past July, and your new novel, “The Enterprise War” is out now. Since you’re bringing us some new Trek, why not take us back to the beginning of your journey with the franchise. What are your earliest memories of Star Trek?

John Jackson Miller (JJM): It’s not something I remember, obviously, but I arrived on this planet the day “A Piece of the Action” first aired on NBC. I probably would have seen the TV show in syndication pretty early as a kid — certainly, I saw the animated series. And I remember buying the first round of Marvel comics, just after “THE MOTION PICTURE”. I’d only really begun digging into the lore and become a part of fandom in the years after WRATH OF KHAN; by the time of NEXT GENERATION I was watching every episode as it aired.

TS: You have several Trek books to your credit at this point, though you remain perhaps best known among genre fans for your work in the Star Wars universe. What elements stand out in both universes and excite you about writing in those unique worlds?

JJM: Star Wars tends to focus more to focus more on personal adventures and quests, where Trek is usually a collective activity — as you’d expect when its focus is on Starfleet. Star Wars lets me get more into the mystical and fantastic; Star Trek, the physical and scientific. Certainly, Star Wars differs due to the level of conflict — it’s right in the name! — Where Star Trek is more of a journey whose end is not known. Again, just as the name says.

I do love the transporter — it’s great for getting you right into the action.

TS: Your previous Trek works have been connected to the post-Nemesis TNG continuity. How does the process differ for you, as an author, of writing in that context as opposed to writing for a show in active production?

JJM: I like being able to spread out when I can. I placed the KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC comics several years before the video game, and was given a full three months of continuity time for the STAR TREK: PREY trilogy. Certainly, I can write stories with more constrained footprints, but there’s a bit more challenge to that. In the case of ENTERPRISE WAR, I had both a lot of room — more than a year of storytime — to work with, plus also some mile markers I needed to be aware of, since we were referring to what was happening a the same time in DISCOVERY Season 1.

TS: Heading into season two of Star Trek: Discovery, did any particular interpretation of Pike really own the character for you?

JJM: I had “The Cage”, of course, and that provided me with a Pike that was shaken by doubt over the losses of personnel he’d experienced; he was about to hang it up even before Talos IV. Then I knew about the Season 2 portrayal of Pike, and figured he’d picked up some confidence in the intervening time. I set out with our story to try to illustrate part of that transformation.

So we are very much starting with more of a portrayal as we saw from Jeffrey Hunter, and then move closer to Anson Mount’s version as we go.

TS: How did the expansion of Christopher Pike across the second season impact your view of the character?

JJM: Clearly we had a lot of new incoming information about the character, even before the season started — and then by the third episode Mount had had more screen time than any other Pike actor. I think he, too, was being mindful of what had come before. I worked to try to integrate that with what had previously been established.

TS: Obviously, the heavy featuring of Spock in season two gives us a significant look into the formative years of perhaps Trek’s most iconic personage. As your story projects into the time between “The Cage” and season two of Discovery, how did you find yourself approaching Spock’s development and story in your writing?

JJM: It was clear that, as one of my collaborators with the publishing house said, “It’s not our Spock, yet.” He’s more clinical, more reserved, hasn’t learned to reach out — there’s no soft edges or sentimentality. Not yet. But we do show his connection with Pike beginning to grow, over time — especially when there’s a sequence where they can only correspond with one another.

TS: How did your writing schedule for “The Enterprise War” line up against filming and airing of Discovery’s second season? Did the final on-screen product have any significant time to impact either the storyline or the characterizations in the book?

JJM: The season had just started when I turned in my initial draft, and had just ended when we made our final revisions. So what was on screen did influence what’s in the book in several regards, though much of the story was set by then.

TS: Admiral Cornwell’s statement to Pike about keeping the Enterprise out of the Klingon War implies a lengthy absence from Federation space. How does “The Enterprise War” work with that time?

JJM: Enterprise enters the Pergamum Nebula for a one-year expedition a little over a week before the Battle at the Binary Stars. Clearly, the war lasts for more than a year, based on information we get on-screen; and as we see in the novel, Pike’s sojourn lasts longer than planned because of forces beyond his control. We do get bulletins from the war now and again, letting us know where in the season we are — but there’s nothing anyone can do about them. Pike’s pretty busy!

TS: Beyond Pike, Number One, and Spock (and perhaps the Enterprise herself?), to what extent did you seek to develop an Enterprise ensemble throughout the story?

JJM: We used a number of characters from past Pike crews, from The Cage to the novels to the Marvel Early Voyages comics — and we also used several of the new Discovery characters, giving them first names in some cases. There are also original characters, including Galadjian, the superstar scientist responsible for Enterprise’s new configuration who’s aboard as her new chief engineer. He’s a story all his own!

TS: Did you find yourself playing with or challenged by both old and new visions of the ship, her crew, and way that Starfleet’s identity feels manifest as you wrote?

JJM: Certainly figuring out what was where on the ship and what had been added was important — Pike’s original ship was smaller. A lot of research and discussions went in. But those also made for good plot points. Jeffry Hunter’s ship had lasers, not phasers; the ever-increasing armament in each refit plugged in nicely to Pike’s reservations about the militarization of Starfleet.

Eventually, he fears, the heavy arms aboard the ship are going to make it a target; in our book, it does.

TS: To what extent did you find yourself incorporating feedback from the Discovery writer’s room as the story evolved?

JJM: I worked with Kirsten Beyer to develop the plot and some of the finer points about characterization. The vast majority of the specific situation we see came from me, but the parts that tie it into the larger continuity would not have been possible without her and the studio’s help.

We also figured out a way to bring the first book of the line back into continuity; just a simple line reconciled what had seemed to be a conflict. That’s the system working as it should. The fans want everything to fit together, and while that’s not always possible, we look for ways to make that happen when we can.

TS: “The Enterprise War” hits shelves, eReaders, and mailboxes in just a few weeks. What other projects do you have in the offing that you would like to share with our readers?

JJM: I have two reprint collections coming out this fall: a STAR WARS ADVENTURES one including my first Star Wars comic story for kids, and a CLASSIC BATTLESTAR GALACTICA graphic novel collecting the 40th-anniversary miniseries I did this past winter. I’ll also be doing appearances at Star Trek Las Vegas, Michigan Comic-Con, and FanX Salt Lake City.

I can be found on Twitter at @jjmfaraway

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